By: Diane Emeott Korzen Contributing Writer
10-year-old tennis player Milena Denic bravely walked up to the podium to speak at the Nov. 6 Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District meeting.
She said she thinks Patch Reef Park Tennis Center is a wonderful place to play tennis, as it hosts wheelchair tennis tournaments and a summer camp for children.
“Other kids like me are playing tennis there and doing it well. My dream is to keep playing there and to become a good player,” said Milena, who attended the meeting with her father Dalibor Denic, also a tennis player, who hails from the former Yugoslavia, now Serbia.
Oi Hash, Women’s Team Division 4 player at Patch Reef, said she has played tennis at seven different parks, but that Patch Reef is the best. She added that while she might be able to afford to go to a country club to play, her teammates could not.
Several from the public spoke on Patch Reef Park Tennis before any regular business items at the meeting – one of which was an update on Patch Reef Park Tennis Facilities.
Those who spoke seemed to be under the mistaken assumption that the park was being sold, after hearing that a first meeting had taken place in New York on Aug. 27 between Beach & Park District Executive Director Arthur Koski and tennis player Rafael Nadal’s people to
discuss the possibility of bringing Nadal’s Youth Tennis Program to Boca.
Commissioner Steve Engel said emphatically that Patch Reef Park is not up for sale “to anyone or any place – not Rafi Nadal or Donald Trump!” Chairman Robert Rollins added, “We are not putting dormitories in a public facility. It’s not for sale!”
Rollins said the plan was to take down the existing Community Center at Patch Reef Park. To put in four indoor clay courts, and two outdoor clay courts.
Boca Lake resident Bill Gillis said the matter first came to his attention by reading Boca newspaper online.
Rollins replied, “That’s true, what’s in the article [“Is Nadal Youth Tennis Program Coming To Boca?” in the October 2017 issue]. Executive Director Koski had a preliminary meeting with Nadal’s people. Nothing further [has been done] than what was discussed in that article.
Nothing to do with the sale of the Patch Reef Park property,” Koski reiterated, “The park is not for sale. We all know that the Community Center in Patch Reef Park is not in very good shape…”
Koski concluded that he had no further news to share on the subject, and estimated it would be mid-2018 “before we come back to you with significant plans for the park.”
The problem at Patch Reef Park is the facilities are outdated, Assistant Director of the Beach & Park District Briann Harms explained later. The Community Center where you first drive in was built in the early 1980s — Patch Reef Park was dedicated on Feb. 19, 1983. The Tennis Center was dedicated on Feb. 20, 1988. The whole park needs to be renovated.
The artificial turf fields are going to be put in April . “I have no timeframe on that, it will probably take 3 to 6 months to complete. The goal is to have them done by Fall  before the new sports season starts,” she said.
Asked what may have prompted some residents to think Patch Reef Park was being sold, Harms said, “The park is not being sold. Nobody really knows how that got started that we were selling it. No one has come forward on that.”
Rollins explained that the Beach & Park District owns the property at Patch Reef Park and leases it to Palm Beach County. “We have a 99-year-lease that was signed in 1982 with the county so that all county residents can use the park as a resident,” he said.